Before Dustin Willis left Atlanta for Guantánamo Bay in 2018, he promised his fiancée that the seventh National Guard Army deployment would be his last.
“I’m coming up on my retirement window,” Willis assured Connie. “I did my 20 years. I’m out.”
It was also a promise to himself. The desire to marry and have children depended on Willis completing his service with the Georgia Army National Guard. “If I want to have a family,” Willis reasoned, “I want to be at home.”
Willis was born in Arkansas but grew up in Georgia and, when he wasn’t stationed abroad, lived there most of his life. He even met Connie on a hiking trip in Atlanta, and they were planning to marry soon. So when she called with news that she’d accepted a job in North Carolina, Willis knew what he had to do.
That September, three days before Hurricane Florence made landfall, Willis returned from Cuba to meet Connie at their new home in New Bern. With the final overseas assignment behind him, it was time to start a family.
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